Over 342 000 people have been displaced in Cameroon’s Far North Region due to attacks by the militant group Boko Haram. These internally displaced people (IDPs) have been forced to abandon their fields, depriving them of sufficient food and income or lost family members who were their support, pushing many into destitution. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have been providing food and nutrition assistance to IDPs through projects supported by a 5.3 million contribution from the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO) and the Department for International Develoment (DFID). Falamata Oumar and Aissatou Adama tell how the Boko Haram crisis has disrupted their lives.
By Flabert Nkwelle
Aissatou Adama felt her world had come to an end when her son was killed during an attack by suspected members of the militant group Boko Haram in Mayo Moskata, in the Mayo Tsanaga Division of the Far North Region of Cameroon.
Losing a child is painful for any parent but it was a particularly bruising blow for Aissatou. As a physically handicapped widow in a poor part of Cameroon, she almost exclusively relied on her son for survival. Now she must fend for herself as well as her son’s two orphaned children — the oldest of whom is aged six.
“We tried growing some crops on a field but the harvest is too little to feed me and my grandsons,” Aissatou said. “We didn’t get any support from any organisation.”
Many of the internally displaced people in the Far North Region live with families. In mid-2017 WFP and its partners opted for a house-to-house registration of local people who needed assistance and Aissatou was one of those who was identified and registered to receive food assistance in the village of Mokola, about 4.5 km from Mokolo the headquarters of the Mayo Tsanaga division.
“I am not used to receiving food. I had never received food distributed by aid workers. But it was a blessing to receive food,” Aissatou said. “The boys (grandchildren) are eating better and look better now.”
The food assistance provided by WFP and partners to people in need Mokola, is part of wider support of 5.3 million Euros million by ECHO and DFID to help refugees, returnees, IDPs and vulnerable host people in Far North regions of Cameroon affected by the violence caused by the Boko Haram group or who have fled conflict in the Central African Republic to seek refuge in Cameroon.
Throughout 2017, WFP distributed food or — where markets are functioning — used cash-based transfers to assist people.
Falmata Oumar used to live in the village of Amchidé near the border with Nigeria. But several attacks on the village by Boko Haram insurgents forced her to flee to Kousseri in the Logone and Chari division three years ago. She is one of the 40 000 people who are receiving assistance through a cash-based transfer system which is also supported through the contribution from ECHO and DFID.
“It was not easy before the assistance programme came,” Falmata said. “Thanks to the cash transfer my children and I are no longer hungry,” the mother of six children said.
With the ability to choose what food items she wants, Falmata buys wheat flour to prepare donuts to add to the family food table and to earn some money. The money from the donut shop allows me to send my children to school and take care of them.
“Thanks to these small savings, I manage to buy beans to accompany my donuts and my husband manages to pay the rent,” she added.